Teen Who Lived in a Tree Finds a New Home

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The teen who once spent two weeks living in a tree has a new home. George, 18, who found shelter in the branches of a tree in San Francisco in 2009, moved in with his grandparents in Washington state earlier this summer and plans to attend Whatcom Community College in the fall, the teen told "20/20" this week.

George reconnected with his grandparents last year and spent Christmas with them. It was a time, he said, of "a lot of shopping, love, arms around me."

George's new life contrasts starkly with the one he led some two years ago.

In August 2009, the woman he called "Mom" -- an aunt who had raised George since he was a baby -- bought him a Greyhound bus ticket from Missouri and gave him what she said was an address for relatives in San Francisco.

But before he arrived, George said he received some shocking news: His aunt told him, over the phone, that the address she provided was not for relatives but for a McDonald's restaurant.

"My mom called me and told me that I didn't have any relatives in San Francisco and I was basically screwed," he said.

PHOTOS: George and other homeless teens.

George's aunt denied this, telling "20/20" that George did, in fact, have relatives in San Francisco but that she did not know their names.

All of a sudden, George found himself homeless -- and he wasn't alone. There are nearly two million homeless youth in America. In San Francisco alone, social workers see some 6,000 cases of homeless teens a year.

Toby Eastman, a San Francisco social worker, sees many teens like George.

"We see a lot of young people that are just rejected from their family," she said.

Eastman says that teens like George who are rejected by their families face a trauma that results in a sort of emotional distance.

When we first met George, he said he didn't miss his family at all.

"If I think about them then I'll just bring back dumb memories I don't need to worry about," he said.

Homeless Teen Felt It Was Safer Above Ground

George arrived in San Francisco with $50 in his pocket. For his first two weeks there, he slept in a tree at a Golden Gate Park. It was safer, he said, than sleeping on the ground, where "a lot of people could tamper with you."

"The only bad thing that could happen in a tree is if you fell out," he said.

George washed himself with paper towels in public bathrooms and ate almost nothing to make his dollars last.

He tried calling his family but to no avail.

"I tried to call them twice and they didn't answer both times. Then I was like, 'What's the use?'" he said.

Exactly why he was sent away remains a mystery. George's aunt told "20/20" that he assaulted classmates, abused her children and was out of control. She said she had no choice but to get him away from her family at any cost.

George denied that. When "20/20" checked in with police, officials at schools George attended and his grandparents, it found no record of serious behavioral problems.

Eventually, without his family's help, George found a place to stay. At a library, he came upon the name of a shelter for teens run by Larkin Street Youth Services. He also reenrolled in school.

He kept trying to reach his aunt. One day last spring, days before his high school graduation, she answered the phone.

It was a halting conversation, full of long silences on her end. He told her about his upcoming graduation ceremony. He was hoping, he said, that she would tell him she wanted to come.

She didn't.

But George didn't celebrate his graduation alone. His friends at the shelter filled the void, throwing a surprise party in his honor. A year later, he found himself taking a long bus trip once again, but this time for happier reasons -- he was heading north to his new home with his grandparents.

Not all homeless teens are as fortunate as George. Learn more about his story and those of other teens in trouble Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET.

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